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What makes a character irredeemable?

last activity 7 months ago by System

Attribution notice removed by user avatar System · 2019-12-19T22:13:55Z (7 months ago)
Source: https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/48199
License name: CC BY-SA 4.0
License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Initial revision by (deleted user) · 2019-12-08T13:02:15Z (7 months ago)
In my view what makes a character irredeemable is doing something that cannot ever be forgotten, that they cannot atone for even by sacrificing their own life.

But that also becomes a matter of opinion, some people are willing to forgive anything. Francine (answering earlier than me) brings up Darth Vader, redeemed in the end. But not for me: He killed a billion people by blowing up their planet, motivated by selfish gain (power). Men, women, children, infants. No heartfelt emotional transformation redeems Vader from that, it was a ending written by a sociopath.

If Hitler sincerely cried for how sorry he was being responsible for [~85 million deaths](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties), he doesn't get redeemed either. Even if he could magically suffer every one of those deaths, it would not undo the suffering experienced by those people, it wouldn't redeem him, nothing would redeem him, short of traveling back in time and killing himself before he began.

I am quick to forgive things I know will be forgotten, that I know intellectually do not really matter, but I am not forgiving of permanent damage.

In my view, "evil" is defined as harming others for selfish gain, in which I include pleasure itself, so a person harming people because they are sadistic is evil, a person killing people for money is evil, a corporate executive that knowingly risks the lives of others in order to make a profit is evil. A politician that tortures people to make political points is evil.

Some selfish acts can be compensated, a person can make amends. Some terrible things are NOT done for selfish gain, but by accident or by circumstance: A soldier in a war kills the enemy, but not for personal gain, they believe they are protecting their fellow soldiers and citizens. If that is the case, the killing is not the soldier being evil. (But the people leading the war may be evil.)

Other evils cannot be compensated, ever. Deaths for selfish gain cannot be undone, some physical traumas will never be undone, some mental traumas cause the equivalent of death, the person will never be the same as they were. Consider a raped child, or adult man or woman for that matter.

Where one believes the line between the two exists is a matter of personal belief, religion and morals. For me personally, my belief system won't let me write a story of redemption for true evil. Somebody that caused a death out of a drunken mistake, perhaps -- they had no intent to cause harm. But not a CEO that hid the fact that carcinogens were found in their breakfast cereal because a recall would bankrupt them. No amount of heartfelt crying balances their scale.

Others might believe in forgiveness and think the CEO can make up for the children killed.

I Don't. Which is why it is a matter of opinion.

Attribution notice added by user avatar System · 2019-12-08T13:02:15Z (7 months ago)
Source: https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/48199
License name: CC BY-SA 4.0
License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Imported from external source by user avatar System · 2019-09-25T21:12:06Z (9 months ago)
Original score: 0